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Q&A with Eric 'The Ripper' Ripert

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Throughout the New York City Food & Wine Festival this weekend, Eater welcomes bloggers, journalists and food world stars to our lounge at the Standard Hotel. As the peeps pass through, we're going to chat them up and spit out the dialogue here in this business, From the Eater Lounge. Right now: Le Bernardin chef, Avec Eric host, and general joy-exuder Eric Ripert.


Eric Ripert: Can I take a biscuit? This is my favorite. You know, when you fly American Airlines business, they bring them warm. It’s great. I’m going tonight to the Standard Grill actually.

How's this last year been for you? ER: I’m a strong believer that restaurants of our kind are not dying. In January when it was the heart of the recession we decided not to bargain our price. We did the one dollar from City Harvest per bill initiative, and now we’ve accumulated 100,000 dollars. Proves that 100,000 people have come to our restaurant.

Is business as strong as ever?ER: Our business is strong, but not as strong as 2007. How did you ride out the crisis?ER: We doubled the visibility of the restaurant – we doubled the marketing and public relations budgets.

Is Avec Eric part of that?ER: Avec Eric is also part of that, but not totally. I was interested in doing a TV show, but not to be an entertainer. I wanted to do something inspiring. So we did it documentary style: follow me and I’ll take you on an adventure.

How is the show doing?ER: 90% of the country picked up the show. The ratings are supposedly very high. (Knocks on wood, or what he hopes is wood.)

Well, the Top Chef appearances must also be part of the exposure strategy.ER: Definitely. People come in because they see the show. Top Chef is a reality show which has a lot of credibility, because of the expertise. I cannot be a judge this year because Jennifer from 10Arts is on there. She’s a very good chef and a good cook.

Are you worried Jennifer will be too successful and leave?ER: I think she is having fun with Top Chef and it’s a great opportunity for her to shine. Whatever will happen to her is her destiny. I’ve never been selfish. I want her to do well.

Let’s talk about the Wine Club.ER: I don’t see a good meal without wine. The fact that we have the best sommelier in the world, we have all the components to make all of this meaningful. Which is kind of a service to people.

Do you think more restaurants will pick up on it? Alinea in Chicago has started something similar to it already.ER: Maybe more restaurants will pick up on this. We do things that we feel inside that we want to do. We try not to follow trends.

What’s next for you?ER: Season 2 [of Avec Eric], I hope. Then I want to do a book. Maybe somehow related to Avec Eric, but not necessarily a companion. I want to be inspirational and, as usually is my thing, demystify creativity.

What about Mandy Oser’s project? Are you helping out?ER: I’m not involved, but I am supporting her. I’m going to be her biggest fan and supporter. It’s a very cute neighborhood wine bar with good food and a good selection of wines.

Did Aldo Sohm help out at all?ER: If he did he didn’t tell me. [Laughs]

Is she still working for you? ER: Yes, yes. I hope she stays with me, she’s my guardian angel. But I have always been very much in favor of promoting talent and letting talent do what they need to do. I believe in karma.
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